Old Spaniard - "Lagartija" (Portait of Florencio Rodriguez), 1923
In 1923, Henri returned to Spain after a ten-year absence, taking residence in Madrid. There he formed a friendship with Florencio Rodriques -- nicknamed Lagartija (small lizard) -- a native of Segovia, northwest of the city. Freely rendered in earthy tones of red, umber, and midnight with contrasting slashes of emerald green, this portrait is unencumbered by traditional concerns for polished refinement. The liberation complemented the artist's choice of subject. "The people I like to paint are ‘my people,' whoever they may be, wherever they may exist, the people through whom dignity of life is manifest." Notwithstanding his tremendous influence on a generation of American modernists, Henri was not an avant- garde painter; his modernism was limited to a loose brush, a democratic realism, and a philosophical commitment to independent self-expression.